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Books. Magazines. Blogs. Newspapers. Fine and dandy. But, what's the most important knowledge to pick up? *Drumrooooooooooooooooll* Self-improvement. According to superstar business guru, Jim Collins:

[The most important trait of an entrepreneur is the discipline of self-improvement.] When Verdi, at age 82, was working on a new opera, he was asked why. He responded that he thought he still had a few years to get it right. I met [Hewlett-Packard co-founder] David Packard in 1995, and he was still living in modest circumstances, but he was still very excited with what HP was doing. They were both satisfied with themselves, not with what they were doing.

As an entrepreneur, get in the habit of asking yourself: "What can I do better today than I did yesterday?" It's simple, sweet, quick, and easy. You won't need to jump to immediate breakthrough right away (Besides, you can't.) You build successful, incremental, and positive steps toward self-improvement. Word. ("What can I do better today than I did yesterday?" "What can I do better today than I did yesterday?" "What can I do better today than I did yesterday?" "What can I do better today than I did yesterday?" Simple.)

Posted on June 18

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One man's transition (John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods):

He'd been taught, Mackey explains, that "business and capitalism were based on exploitation: exploitation of consumers, workers, society and the environment." After a year in business, he saw a reality that didn't mesh with his decades of anti-business indoctrination. "I believed that 'profit' was a necessary evil at best and certainly not a desirable goal for society as a whole," he writes. "However, becoming an entrepreneur completely changed my life. Everything I believed about business was proven to be wrong." Rather than seeing a milieu of "exploitation" and coercion in his store, Mackey saw a system of freedom and "voluntary cooperation" at work and a new realism: "No one is forced to trade with a business; customers have competitive alternatives in the marketplace; employees have competitive alternatives for their labor; investors have different alternatives and places to invest their capital. Investors, labor, management, suppliers - they all need to cooperate to create value for their customers."

Societies that have adopted capitalism have thrived.

On the opposite end, communism has torn societies. I'm not here to preach, but if there's one thing to understand about how societies thrive, it's this: seeking self-serving interests paradoxically helps society as a whole. A not-so-out-of-the-box idea on fixing America's public school system? Make the schools private, and for-profit. Seriously.

Posted on June 17

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Some business bloggers are signaling the end of Microsoft. Bill Gates leaving his position in 2008? "It's over, kids!" Our stance? Yeah, right!

Microsoft will continue, folks.

Microsoft was, is, and forever will be a company run by a legion of smart nerdy folks, not by a single charismatic (We're looking your way, Apple). It's run by nerdy folks who'll constantly build and perfect software for individuals and businesses. Nerdy folks contained within an innovation factory--a factory that produces new products weekly. Nerdy folks who don't depend on a single person to cause ripples within the markets.

Who do you depend on?

We've always said the best businesses are those that will continue fighting like warriors, even if its leader gets hit by a bus, tomorrow. Like Microsoft, these businesses don't depend on a Michael Jordan (What happened to the Bulls after Jordan left?). They don't depend on any one person. Just witness the Atlanta Braves' ridiculous postseason run, or even better: Brazil's explosive soccer dynasty. The best businesses are built like clocks: they just keep on ticking. Word.

Posted on June 15

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According to Harvard's Amar Bhide, the answer? No:
Look for quick break-even, cash-generating projects. The rule in large companies and well-funded enterprises is to stick to the basic strategy. Not so with the bootstrapped start-up. Profit opportunities that might be regarded as distractions in a large company are immensely valuable to the entrepreneur. A business that is making money, elegantly or not, builds credibility in the eyes of suppliers, customers, and employees, as well as self-confidence in the entrepreneur.
We agree. All new products, no matter how successful you think it will be, have high failure rates. Usually, most entrepreneurs spend the entire enchilada on building one product. When it fails, what then? Where's the beef? At Trizzy, instead of throwing all our eggs into one basket, we favor building tiny, affordable, quick-to-launch products. Usually from those small innovations, we'll get a good sense of what works and what doesn't. If something fails, we'll have money left over to start anew. Yet, if a particular product proves successful (i.e. profitable), we'll invest more into it. Tiny steps. It always works.
Posted on June 14

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If there's one secret to entrepreneurship, it's this: building a great business from scratch takes time. You can't do it overnight. If you're gunning for overnight success, watch out: you won't achieve it. Sure, you could try. You'll get your 15 minutes of fame; but like most reality stars, American Idol contestants, and TechCrunch-super-supposedly-duper-startup-Web2.0 companies, you won't sustain your success.

Take a look at today's spectacular-azy businesses.

The gems on Wall Street. The ones heralded on Forbes. They all started slowly. Microsoft didn't hit its breakthrough until 4 years later. Google went a full year before it saw revenue. HP started out sucking (cash), until it met Disney some time later. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The Flywheel Effect

Achieving business success is similar to Jim Collins's concept of the Flywheel Effect. Initially, it takes all your effort and strength to get that wheel rotating. At first, it barely moves. But over time, as you start pushing, and pushing, the flywheel starts to gain momentum. It gets easier and easier. Push some more? Your business will soon hit its coveted breakthrough stage.

Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail

Most entrepreneurs fail because of one thing: lack of persistence. That's it. And no, we're not saying that's the only ingredient to failure. It's the primary ingredient. Want to build a great business? Start settling in for the long-haul.

Posted on June 13

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Jon McKinsey's Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith defines great teams as: "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." There's a reason why the guys and gals at Googleplex form a group of 3-4 members to build their web applications. Gmail wasn't built by a team of thousands. The core of the application was built by less than 5. So was Google Calendar, and Google's initial search engine that rocked the internet world.

Simplicity in teams works.

The less number of people on a team, the more accountable each team member will be to produce. The less number of team members, the quicker the deadlines. The quicker the production. The better the morale. You put too many people on a team, and what do you get? Politics. Too few? Your team won't shore up weaknesses. Building a great restaurant, law practice, basketball team, etc, etc, etc.? Use a core team of 3-5 to launch it.

Posted on June 12

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Ran across a quote by Berkeley's Engineering Professor, Robert Sutton. Should you remove all "assholes", or just keep one on display? His remarks:
It might be even better if a company could implement a "one asshole" rule. Research on both deviance and norm violations shows that if one example of misbehavior is kept on display -- and is seen to be rejected, shunned, and punished -- everyone else is more conscientious about adhering to written and unwritten rules.
It's not been tested, but makes sense and sounds good. With that said, we'd probably not recommend keeping any "assholes".
Posted on June 11

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Not to toot our own horn, but Fortune 500s are adopting an innovation model based on us. (Okay, not really.) They call it TRIZ. A tutorial:
Begin by defining your ideal outcome -- what function you want the product or process to perform. The next step is to figure out how to best utilize your organization's resources to work toward that goal. Next, run scenarios and devise models to try to achieve the desired outcome.
Simple. Concise. Sweet. It's not the complex-crapola you see in most business books and magazines. You're welcome. (Kidding.)
Posted on June 10

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To understand the answer, it's essential to understand what humans want. It's the whole "What-can-you-do-for-me?" attitude. Consider Jane. No matter how selfless Jane is, she still wants something. If Jane needs a team to achieve something, she'll be a team player. Something needs to tick to make her that team-player. You put Jane on a basketball team, and she's becomes team player if she wants a championship ring. You put Jane in a military unit. She wants to get out of a battle alive. That turns her into a team player. You put Jane into a team that needs to complete a project, or they'll all be fired. She'll be the best team player she could. Want to build a great team? Simply ask this: What do you employees want?
Posted on June 09

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If you don't, you should. Here's why. Businesses are boring. They're stuck in a rut. Well, at least, most are anyway. "Here's your invoice. Pay promptly. Thanks. Bye." Blah. Remember when you were a little kid, and you went to a theme park? Fun. What about a park without the theme? You know, that park where you just bought tickets for each ride. No admission fee needed. How was it? Boring. Not fun. Most businesses are built like the latter: dull, boring companies. Blah! How do you improve your customer experience? Take a lesson from theme parks. Ka-billions of people like you pull out a chunk to go to theme parks. Why? "For the rides, of course." Nope. They go for the experience, but don't know it: subconciously, we rarely know what's persuading us. A great quote by Strategic Horizons's B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore: "Companies should think about what they would do differently if they charged admission." If your company charged an admission fee to interact with your business, what would you do differently?

Posted on June 08

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